Saturday, October 29, 2005

Take the last train to Clarksville

We were invited to a Wesley Clark WesPac fundraiser last night by the lovely and talented Mark Kleiman, (thanks also to Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake) and of course, being intrigued by the General's presence and demeanor during the last campaign cycle, we gladly attended.

Mark arranged for a private sit-down for some of us LA bloggers with the General, who with his charming wife Gert, chatted face to face with several of us for almost half an hour. Besides Mark, myself and Pam (Ms. Audio), there were John Amato, Dante Atkins, Howie Klein, who, like me, is a survivor of recording studios and the music biz, and a very nice person from Who's Counting.

The General is even more personable than he appeared on TV. He looked each one of us in the eye, had a message that he clearly felt he wanted to get across, and also listened to our questions. And rather than patronize us by making supporting noises about bloggers as the wave of the future and salvation of the human race, he instead told us what he felt he wanted us to hear, his vision for uniting the Democratic Party behind a clear winning message.

He also said one thing that really struck me. He said: "I have no friends at the Pentagon." Hard to believe, as he is a successful career military man. But he pointed out that many of his former colleagues still owe fiscal allegiance either to the military, or to the corporations upon whose boards they sit, in order to pay for the country club membership. In exchange for which, they can often call up the SecDef or staff and say "Hey, you know I'm with General Dynamics now, and they have their new Acme RoadRunner model submarine that you guys should really take a look at."

He also talked about torture and The Geneva Conventions as values we have to adhere to, lest we fail to be what we proclaim to the world, the greatest civilization on earth. He said we can't expect other peoples and societies to respect us unless we also show reciprocal respect. I pointed out that many Americans today have no problem advocating torture as a method of securing their security, regardless of evidence that as an interrogation method it seldom bears fruit. He replied that many Americans are afraid today, of "other" and change, and that we can reach those folks, because at the end of the day, they are still Americans, with values, just a bit misguided.

When he spoke to the larger group of attendees, he also made the point that although Democrats have many niche issues, we can't hang our hats on the success of those. We instead need to focus on making the Party stronger, convincing America that we are the party of values, and if we build a coalition that focuses on the Common Good (his phrase), rather than individual good, we can win elections.

Now that sounds good to me.

He also talked about an Exit Strategy for Iraq, and this troubled me, because he didn't say exactly what I wanted to hear. He said that we shouldn't have gone into Iraq, something most Democrats always believed (sorry Peter Beinert, you're just wrong.) That was an idea we all could agree with.

But then he said that we also couldn't leave, and that a timetable was a strategy for failure. He said the withdrawal had to be Event Driven (again, his phrase), and that only upon certain conditions, like a truly self-sufficient Iraqi military, with some hope of maintaining a balance of power between Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds, could we ever start to leave with some certainty that civil war wouldn't erupt.

This bothered me. I wanted instant gratification, an easy way out. I wanted to believe that no more American soldiers or Iraqi civilians would die. I also wanted to believe that we wouldn't watch the Oil Ministry be saved while the Electricity grid was destroyed. And I wanted to believe that the Bush administration wouldn't lie so brazenly about Iraq.

I knew they were lying, I knew the Oil Ministry was the most important target, and I knew General Clark was right.

Time to join the world, time to grow up.

Thanks, Gen. Clark.

Update: Corrected to fix the large error regarding Howie Klein as a blogger. In fact, Howie blogs his ass off here: Down With Tyranny!. Apologies, Howie.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I'm down, I'm really down

Sir Paul McCartney seems like a really nice guy. We were even in the same studio for a while at Capitol Studios, and while we didn't speak to each other, everyone else assured me that he was a really nice guy.

As further proof, we have the following socially active links from his own web page:

Make Poverty

Adopt-A-Minefield UK

The Nelson Mandala Foundation

Heather Mills' anti-Dog & Cat fur petition

Lovely. I'm sure all that social consciousness was helpful to Susan LoTempio when she tried to see Macca in concert:

I WAS 15 when I first saw the Beatles in concert. That was 1965, long before the Americans with Disabilities Act, so wheelchair seating was rather unpredictable. Lucky for me, the ushers at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens pointed me to the front of the arena and told me to stay there.

"There" was right under Paul McCartney's amplifier. A perfect place to be.

"There" last Friday night at Madison Square Garden, 40 years later, was third row on the floor, a few feet away not just from his amplifier, but from Sir Paul himself. An opening night dream seat, you might assume.

Actually, it was a seat from hell.

The ticket was a Mother's Day gift from my 20-year-old daughter. She and my niece scraped together $278, contacted the Garden's disabled services office, and gave me the best gift I've ever received.

Like the thousands of others there that night, I expected a great show, and a great memory.

At the Garden, though, as I was being shown to my seat (a spot at the end of the aisle where a chair had been removed), I wondered if I would be able to see the stage if the fans in front stood up during the show.

Don't worry, the security guards assured me, they know how to handle the situation. I also asked a representative from the Garden's disabled services office. He said the same thing.

When Sir Paul came out and launched into his first number, everyone stood up, and all I could see was a wall of gyrating backsides.

Too close to the stage to even see the huge monitors overhead, I moved into the aisle to try to get a view. The security guard told me to move back. I asked him where I could go to see around the masses of bodies, and he ordered me to stay where I was.

I tried to remain polite, but that painful sensation I get when I'm being dismissed or patronized swept through me and I yelled back, "These tickets cost $300, and I can't see anything."

"Stay there," the security guard shouted, his face just inches from mine. "If you don't like it, you can leave."

There's more. Go read it all.

In all fairness, I'm sure that Paulie would be outraged if he knew about Ms. LoTempio's cavalier treatment by the Garden's crack staff.

But also in fairness, I googled every combination of primary elements in this story, and while I make no claim to be the experienced journalist that, say, Judy Miller is, I could find no mention that this episode had been followed up upon by either the Garden or Sir Paul.

"All you need is love." Maybe you can show some love to this issue too, Paul.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I read it in a magazine, oh oh oh

In what may be a thrilling bit of news to Wingers, the International Musician, magazine of the Musician's Union (here, but you have to be a member to read the mag) has this:

The nation's minimum wage hit its lowest point in relation to the average wage in the country since 1949, a new report by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found.

Today, the minimum wage equals just 32% of the average private sector, nonsupervisory wage. During the 1950s and 1960s, the minimum wage equaled about 50% of the average wage. The purchasing power of the $5.15 an hour minimum wage has decreased by 17% since it was last raised in 1997.

Unions and Democratic congressional leaders are taking action, trying to bring minimum wage increase legislation to a vote. Two recently introduced bills would raise the minimum age to $7.25 an hour in three steps over 26 months.

Here's more from the source, from the Economic Policy Institute:
The real value of the minimum wage peaked in 1968, when it was equivalent to a wage of $7.54 an hour. During the 1970s, the wage floor averaged $6.71 an hour in today's dollars.

But the economy is recovering. This should fit nicely into Neil Boortz's vision of a post-catastrophic relief effort; with so many more poor, that's fewer rich folks to have to save.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

That's when you know, you doin' the funky chicken

Let's recap the Tyson racial discrimination lawsuit:
9.15.04: Tyson signs an aggreement with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) called "National Universal Agreement to Mediate (NUAM)" to informally mediate worker complaints, hopefully before actual complaints or litigation.

How's that working out so far?
8.11.05: EEOC responds to complaints by 2 Tyson Foods employees that they were subjected to "adverse employment actions, including suspensions and disciplinary write-ups" after complaining about a "Whites Only" restroom and lo9cked break room. EEOC v. Tyson Foods, Inc., CV-05-BE-1704-E (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama), alleges that Tyson's violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

8.12.05: Lawyer's Committee on Civil Rights helps 13 employees of Tyson Foods file discrimination lawsuit, alledging Tyson managers maintained "Whites Only" restroom and locked break room, and that complaints about this resulted in retaliation.
10.06.05The National Action Network, the New York-based organization run by activist and former presidential candidate Al Sharpton, has withdrawn two Dream Keepers awards originally earmarked for Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart, after learning of race discrimination charges against Tyson.
. . .
Sharpton has said he was not aware of the federal lawsuit filed Aug. 12 against Tyson by 12 Black employees until an interview with the NNPA. At the time, he said he would have his nominating committee review the award decision and would have it overturned if necessary. The employees allege segregated bathrooms with a "Whites Only" sign, the pervasive use of the n-word, "monkey," "boy" and "watermelon" insults and a threat with a noose.

Is this the first time Tyson found its collective wing in the wringer? I don't think so.
In July 1999, the EEOC settled a class action suit against Tyson Foods, Inc., for $3.2 million, the largest settlement ever by the agency's Birmingham office involving racial and sexual harassment.

In April 2002, a group of workers filed a civil suit against Tyson Foods, charging the food processor with violating federal racketeering and immigration law by allegedly conspiring to keep workers' wagers low by hiring illegal immigrants at 15 of its food processing facilities. The civil suit, and a federal criminal suit, allege that Tyson violated the federal Immigration and Nationality Act by knowingly hiring a large number of illegal immigrants. (Trollinger v. Tyson Foods)

Tyson Foods, Inc. will pay $230,000 to female and minority job applicants who were allegedly not hired to work at a Forest, Mississippi poultry plant for discriminatory reasons in 1996 and 1997

Muslim employees at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Norfolk have agreed not to strike pending negotiations of alleged religious discrimination by management.

The meeting between both sides on Friday was productive, said Fardusa Council, a negotiator for the Muslim employees. All Muslim employees had planed to strike if a resolution was not reached, but that is being put on hold as the two sides work together, she said.

Is Tyson the only corporation guilty of nasty business practices? Hardly. But these type of allegations and offences, once investigated and proven, need to be exposed as the shicken sh*t they are.

Friday, October 14, 2005

If you'll be my Dixie chicken...part II

Tyson Foods has a love/hate relationship with diversity and minorities: they love diversity, but hate minorities, as we have previously posted here and here.

Tyson's legal problems continue to grow. Like some Bizarro chess game where players join rather than retire, the current lawsuit by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights has been supported by a suit from the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission):
After complaining to Tyson Foods, Inc. about the posting of a "Whites Only" sign on one of Tyson's restrooms at its Ashland, Alabama, facility, two black employees were subjected to adverse personnel actions by Tyson management, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges in a discrimination lawsuit announced today.

The EEOC's suit, EEOC v. Tyson Foods, Inc., CV-05-BE-1704-E (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama), alleges that Tyson's violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against Henry Adams, Leon Walker, and other black employees, by establishing and maintaining a locked bathroom facility, which on occasion had signs posted on it stating "Out of Order" and "Whites Only". Keys to the facility were distributed to white employees only. After Mr. Adams and Mr. Walker complained of the segregated facility, management subjected them to adverse employment actions, including suspensions and disciplinary write-ups.

That a federal agency, in these times of corporate laissez fare governance and oversight, has taken on this battle is telling. The EEOC seems to feel that the lawsuit has merit, and that bodes well for the plaintiffs.

Tyson, on the other hand, should start to worry. As the right-wing ideologs in power suddenly seem amateurish, craven, and, finally, criminal, the public's contempt for bad behaviour will grow. There will always be apologists for racism, as we pointed out in our last post (reverse discrimination!), but this time, Corporate America should start being good citizens, before they lose all credibility, and customers.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I'd like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love

Here's another look at Coke's racial discrimination lawsuit we discussed in the last post. A website called has this thought provoking post:
This unprecedented case of racial extortion has resulted in Coca Cola paying $500 million dollars or more to silence racial activists and to keep Coke sales among minorities up. Coke was never allowed to prove itself innocent of racial discrimination charges in a court of law.

(A) Quota Cola Background:

Four disgruntled black employees of Coca Cola filed a racial discrimination lawsuit based on unsubstantiated charges that Coke (a) underpaid them because they are black; and (b) created a hostile work environment.

The allegations of these 4 black employees were never proven in a court of law. Nonetheless, their clever lawyers managed to extort over $475,200,000 from Coke without ever setting foot in a court of law! Incidentally, the plaintiff's lawyers walked away with over $20,000,000 in legal fees.

. . .

(E) Race-Based, Non-White Policies Coke Must Implement:

Publicly, Coca Cola maintains that the changes in their business practices demanded by the racial quota lobby are "forward-looking and are designed to ensure that Coca-Cola will treat all employees fairly." But the fine print makes it quite clear Coke is spending over $475 million specifically NOT for the benefit of white males.

(Note: emphasis added)

Not too subtle, it's the "Return of The Angry White Male."

In a refreshingly bold bit of hypocrisy, they have this about Bill Lann Lee, late of The Dept. of Justice Office of Civil Rights. In '97, Clinton appointed Lee, but the Republican controlled congress refused to confirm him. Now get this, posted with no visible irony or shame:
Subsequently, Clinton waited until Congress was in recess and illegally appointed Lee to the post as a "recess appointment".

Savor that, it tastes sweet. Let's learn the phrase:
Illegal recess appointment.
Illegal recess appointment.
Illegal recess appointment.
Illegal recess appointment.
Illegal recess appointment.

Now go use it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

If you'll be my dixie chicken...

I'm still curious about the relationship between Tyson Foods and the Arkansas Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (ARMSDC), who named Tyson "Corporation of the Year." Seems odd while Tyson is encumbered with a class-action lawsuit about discrimination in the workplace, See our previous posts here and here.

Let's take another look at ARMSDC. First, in addition to the oddities about their web site we noticed before, we find the heading on the home page: "Arkansas Regional Supplier Devlopment (sic) Council". Again, seems pretty shoddy for a national organization. And there's still the curious matter of their Corporate Awards Dinner page:
??Need some general verabage on this event.... Such This is a annual event to recognize businesses & corporate sponsors.... This event is held in the fall... check the event calendar for date... yada yada yada??
Very wierd. Reminds me of the David Spade Capitol One TV commercial, except, not so funny.

ARMSDC is an affiliate of the (surprise!) National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. (NMSDC), Here's their "Who We Are" statement:
Providing a direct link between corporate America and minority-owned businesses is the primary objective of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, one of the country's leading business membership organizations. It was chartered in 1972 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes.

The NMSDC Network includes a National Office in New York and 39 regional councils across the country. There are 3,500 corporate members throughout the network, including most of America's largest publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned companies, as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The regional councils certify and match more than 15,000 minority owned businesses (Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American) with member corporations which want to purchase goods and services.

Sounds fairly safe, so far. Here's one item from their Programs & Services:
Referrals to corporate buyers of minority suppliers capable of providing quality goods and services at competitive prices, and in a timely fashion;

Now that starts to make sense; it's really a shakedown organization to milk minority owned companies and Fortune 500 companies for money in exchange for contacts and bona fides such as the award given to Tyson.

Not surprisingly, we find these upstanding citizens on the list of Members:
The Coca-Cola Company &
Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc.

A little research turns up this about Coke from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility:
16 November, 2000

On November 16th, The Coca-Cola Company agreed to pay more than $192 million in cash and equity payments in the largest racial discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history. The settlement resolved a federal class action lawsuit brought by African American employees against the company in April of 1999 and mandates major changes unprecedented in corporate history.

Earlier the same year we have this from Coke:
Atlanta, May 16, 2000 - Doug Daft, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, today made a five-year $1 billion commitment to diversity in a comprehensive empowerment and entrepreneurship program for the U.S.

"This is a logical extension of our 'think local, act local' strategy and our desire to become a model citizen in the communities we serve," said Daft. " To do that, The Coca-Cola Company must continue to strengthen local economies through the way we invest, the way we allocate our procurement dollars, the partners we choose to help us market and distribute our brands, and the way we build our system."

"This Company was built on a tradition of shared success. I commissioned a disciplined and rigorous inventory of our operations to determine where we could do more to extend that tradition. 'Everyone who touches Coca-Cola should benefit' was one of this Company's early business principles. This program reflects the results of that recently completed review to help us take that principle into the 21st century."

The program announced today includes:

1. Increased spending with minority- and women-owned businesses and a commitment to foster a climate of entrepreneurial opportunity through targeted minority supplier identification and a new supplier mentoring program;
2. Increased Company investments in local economies through urban economic partnerships, including a 50-community expansion of the Urban Customer Partner program and increased marketing investments to strengthen local retailers and entrepreneurs;
3. Increased opportunities for minority financial institutions and businesses through the Company's financial strategies and investments;
4. Creation of a task force headed by Jack Stahl, president and COO, to determine by first quarter 2001 specific opportunities for minorities for equity and ownership in the Cola-Cola value chain;
5. Increased community contributions and support for organizations focused on education, mentoring, economic opportunity and neighborhood revitalization.

5 years later we have this:
With The Coca-Cola Company’s five-year pledge to spend $800 million with minority- and women-owned businesses winding down, Chairman and CEO Neville Isdell recently confirmed his commitment to supplier diversity at the fourth-annual “Partners in the Promise” awards celebration in Atlanta.

“As a consumer products company, our success depends on our ability to listen to consumers and customers, and to respond rapidly to changes in the marketplace,” Isdell told the audience of supplier diversity partners and supporters at the April 7 event. “If The Coca-Cola Company is going to continue to be a leader in the marketplace, we must also be a leader in supplier diversity. Tonight, I’m honored to share with you my personal commitment to this imperative.”

So clearly Coke embarked on this minority PR campaign as penance for the impending settlement of the discrimination lawsuit. And Coke milked it for all it was worth, after, of course, the humiliation of the settlement.

Oh, wait a minute, what humiliation? That's pretty impressive performance. Maybe they deserve the award from the NMSDC for biggest contribution from a member successfully litigated against. Unless Tyson has beaten them to the punch.

The NMSDC member list is long; we'll look at some more later, after my stomach settles.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sweet Home Alabama II:

On Sept. 13 we posted that Tyson Foods was being sued in a class action by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights. This action was taken because of alleged discrimination: Tyson's local managers at the Ashland, Al. plant had allegedly posted a "Whites Only" sign on a bathroom, and had padlocked the door.

This got quite a bit of press, including several kind references to us.

We now learn that, astonishingly, Tyson has been honored for supporting minority businesses. From Tyson's Press Release:
Tyson was recently named “Corporation of the Year” by the Arkansas Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (ARMSDC) for exceeding standards for corporate diversity and demonstrating leadership and a genuine commitment to minority businesses. The award was presented to Tyson Foods during ARMSDC’s 19th Annual Business Opportunity Fair.

As someone once said, "Fascinating, Captain."

I'm not one to cast aspersions or dive into tinfoil hat territory, but some strange stuff happened when we tried to verify this. First, we Googled Arkansas Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (ARMSDC), and got lots of interesting hits.

First, we found the actual web site,, which yesterday said this: This Domain has expired. Please contact your provider to renew. Containers · Rifle scabbard · Gun safes · Cartouche · Rifle case ...

but now today says this:
Our mission is to promote the development of business opportunities between minority business enterprises (MBEs), corporations, and government agencies in Arkansas and Mississippi.

Simple oversight, perhaps someone forget to send in the registration fee.

Interestingly, clicking on all available links on the newly refreshed ARMSDC web site, we fing not one reference to Tyson Foods, not even on the Upcoming Events PDF. Also, several places that say "click here for..." have no links attached. Pretty sloppy HTML, or a hastily thrown together web site? In either case, hardly professional.

In fact, here's what the "Awards Dinner" link says when clicked through:
??Need some general verabage on this event.... Such This is a annual event to recognize businesses & corporate sponsors.... This event is held in the fall... check the event calendar for date... yada yada yada??

This is embarrasingly bad for a seeming large entity. So let's look further.

Hola Arkansas has this:
At the CEO Awards luncheon on Wednesday, August 17, Maura Lozano-Yancy, president & group publisher of ¡Hola! Arkansas introduced the keynote speaker, Mr. Anthony Robinson, Executive Director of MBELDEF, Minority Business Enterprise and Education Fund from Washington, DC.

Liz Massey, Today’s THV Channel 11 evening Anchor served as the Master of Ceremony.
Tyson Foods was voted the “Corporation of the Year”, for setting up new standards for corporate diversity, for it’s support to the council and it’s MBE’s. Tyson Foods also received the “Stancil Image Awards” for best booth. Tyson is represented in the Board of the ARMSDC and in all the committees.

So far the Award seems legitimate, although the timing is curious. Keep in mind that ARMSDC lists not only Tyson but WalMart as corporate sponsors. Am I trying to damn by association? Well, in a word, yes. No one can credibly assert any altruism from WalMart toward its suppliers, minority or Martian owned.

Finally, just to cement the oddness of this award, a google search for "armsdc tyson" shows that all the press for the Award was generated by Tyson, either its own press release, or what was fed to other news organs. I couldn't find one link to ARMSDC.ORG that seemed to be from itself, touting the Tyson Award.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Jane you’re playin a game you can win girl

Pam & I had lunch with the effervescent and gracious Jane from firedoglake (Jane bought, just for the record), and as usual, she/we solved, again, many of the world's problems.

After hearing her present her case re: PlameGate & Judy Miller, Pam & I think she's right on point with her analysis, esp. re: the new leak of Libby's missal to Judy, which reads much like a note to a convict explaining where the file is inside the cake.

Judy reminds me of the famous Gilda Radner character of the same name. A desire to entertain coupled with a certain sense of her own self worth is oddly charming in a 6 year old TV creation, but hardly seems appropriate for a news diva whose main contribution is the cheerleading of a vile Right Wing driven war.

Thanks, Jane, for lunch, and much much more.

Well it's my birthday too, yeah

I just realized I missed my blog birthday. Wow! I started this on 9/11/04, in the run up to the '04 election.

"I want to thank the Academy, my agent, my fellow bloggers for their kind words of support, my lovely wife and co-blogger Pam, and of course, the people, you fans out there. You know who you are. Your zeal to hang on my every word, no matter how trivial, silly, or stupid, is the sustenance I live for. You are my rock, I couldn't do this without you. You like me, you really like me!"

Yeah, well...

The thing is that I have found a small place where I can say what I feel needs to be said, and a few people can read it; people who I would otherwise never connect with. Because of the hunger of those on the Left for truth and reason, the Bloggersphere has become a rich resource, sometimes too self-congratulatory and self-referential, but still, a great sea of information, opinion, and sometime, even wisdom.

I have met some really wonderful people, both online and in person, and I hope, as we continue to fight for "Truth, Justice, and The American Way" we will stay in touch.

Now let's keep blogging!

Be careful what you say, or you'll give yourself away

Intelligent Design (ID) shows some signs of being, well, intelligent. Instead of rejecting proven science in favor of charming though improbable myth, ID seeks to find a method in the otherwise logical but seemingly random process that guides evolution. (Note my clever use of "seeming random" and "guides"-more on this later)

From the German Daily Der Spiegel we find this fascinating article about the rigorous exploration of scientific fact carried out by IDers in their quest to prove their version of scientific fact:

Intelligent Design presents itself as a middle way between Creationism and Darwinism. But is it? Turns out, the road to ID, while it may profess to be open to all, is riddled with Biblical detours.

. . .

But Dembski is also a leading name in Intelligent Design, a young movement of scientists who want to question Darwinism and prove, if they can, that the universe shows evidence of creation by some transcendent mind.

Whose mind? They won't say. Dembski gives whole lectures without using the "G-word." His field is math and logic; all he wants to do (he says) is distinguish design from randomness in nature. His book "The Design Inference" offers a test for telling a random system, like weather, from systems that couldn't logically develop without a master plan. The basic idea is to prove that a bird's wing, or even a bacterial flagellum -- never mind a human being -- is too complex to evolve at random, the way Darwin proposed. Dembski and "Design" scholars in other fields, like the biochemist Michael Behe, accept that the universe is millions of years old; they're Christians but not fundamentalists; they don't think the earth was formed in a week. But they do believe Darwinism is a kind of liberal-humanist religion, with its share of orthodoxies, shibboleths, and myths.

This actually makes sense so far, doesn't it? It seems so rational, so...well, just wait and see.
The universe, in this model, is a projection, which we can fully untangle only with information that (like God) lies off our empirical map. Maybe Dembski had something to contribute in this direction. I was charged with curiosity. So on the morning of his speech, I boarded a plane for San Diego.

. . .

A few miles east, in the near-desert town of Santee, a long, white, stucco building called the Institute for Creation Research squats along a barren frontage road. This is the North American headquarters of fundamentalist Creationism. Its faculty of Ph.D.-laden scientists and mathematicians all believe literally and cheerfully in Genesis and every other book of the Bible. They teach and promote Creation Science, which is not really science but an odd project to chop and reassemble scientific evidence until it agrees with the Bible. Job lived during the Ice Age, in the Institute's view. Noah's flood wiped out the dinosaurs. The scholars at ICR give weak support for these claims in a series of little fliers. They publish new research in non-peer-reviewed journals and invite school groups to tour their Creation Museum.

Non-peer reviewed journals; not the most compelling of references. But still...

Dembski and his Intelligent-Design friends reject young-earth Creationism. So many critics have accused the I.D. movement of being Creationism in disguise (including the late Stephen Jay Gould) that Dembski and Behe and members of the IDEA Club have to repeat, over and over, that they're not fundamentalists. "I do not regard Genesis as a scientific text," writes Dembski, in what amounts to a position paper. "I have no vested theological interest in the age of the earth or the universe." He agrees the earth is 4.5 billion years old and the universe about 14 billion. "Even so, I refuse to be dogmatic here. I'm willing to listen to arguments to the contrary." Again, that open mind.

I'd arranged to meet both Dembski and the IDEA Club's president at a campus café before the speech. The club president was an enthusiastic earth-sciences student named Casey Luskin, with short dark hair, heavy eyebrows, and a nervous beaming smile. He seemed pleased to meet me but a little put out. Dembski couldn't make the interview. He'd been sidetracked to Santee for a casual talk with a group that was curious about his ideas. Did I have any extra time? Could I drive out there with him? Sure I could. We climbed into Casey's clean white Jeep and headed east, toward the Institute for Creation Research.

Casey talked, and drove, in energetic bursts. I wanted to know why my alma mater had the distinction of being the only school in the nation to host an I.D. club, and Casey gave me the story. He and two friends had founded IDEA in May 1999 after Phillip Johnson, a father of the movement, came to speak on campus. The fierce emotion Casey saw in other students after the speech and during a parallel seminar called "Creation and Evolution" had convinced him the school needed a club. He said IDEA had already tangled, awkwardly, with a prominent UCSD evolutionist named David Woodruff.

"Really?" I said. Woodruff had been a professor of mine. "What happened?"

Sore question. He hesitated.

"I need to think if I want this to be out in the open. It's nothing like -- I feel like we did nothing wrong, in that whole situation, at all ... But if this could turn into something against my professor, I don't want that."

I promised not to turn it into a new scandal. I was just curious. Woodruff was a formidable man. "I'll probably talk to him," I said.

"About this situation?"

"No, just about Intelligent Design." I still had no idea what situation he meant. "What happened, though?"

He started to breathe heavily.

"Could you turn off the recorder for a sec?"

Now it starts sounding like an episode of "Mission Impossible," or for those of us old enough to remember, "I Led Three Lives."
A year or so earlier IDEA had pamphleted Woodruff's final Evolution lecture with a list of sharp questions about Darwinism. Woodruff took the list home and dismissed each question in a brief, brusque paragraph in a flyer of his own, which he handed out after an exam and also gave (later) to me. It was Woodruff's only encounter with IDEA. He didn't care who wrote the questions, although he knew who'd founded the club. Still, Casey was skittish about connecting his name to an exchange of ideological cannon fire with a distinguished professor. So he clammed up in the Jeep. IDEA's free-debate ethic had its limits.

Look, let's face it. For those of us who believe in an invisible cloud being of any kind, whether it's God, G-d, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that's fine. Frankly, I do. And I have no idea of it's shape, size, or appearance. Maybe it's the rolling Karmic rhythm of Hinduism, with it's many Dieties. Maybe it's the quixotic humor of Zen. There's a small (perhaps chidlike) part of me that really is happy believing that somehow when I discorporate my life energy will merge in some unknowable yet magnificent way with the universe and all other souls.

But I still have no trouble understand Darwin, Natural Selection, and Scientific Method. Survival of the Fittest, at least as an evolutionary strategy, really seems to work.

Except, it seems, in politics.